Although renewable energy methods, like anaerobic digesters that convert manure to energy, offer solutions to the waste management and sustainability challenges facing the dairy industry, they are not broadly used on American dairy farms. The major capital expense requirements and the significant expertise and time commitment needed to manage them keep many farmers reluctant to invest in the technology.
“Dairy farmers have always been great stewards of the land. But, like any business, farmers must continue to innovate and evolve,” said David Darr, president of farm services at DFA. “With this partnership, we hope to make anaerobic digestion more available to more farmers, which is not only good for the environment, but will also help our farmer families run their businesses more efficiently, and that’s a win-win.”
DFA and Vanguard Renewables will develop resilient business models using anaerobic digestion systems and work with farmers, government agencies, dairy processors and retailer customers to build business cases for innovative systems. Vanguard Renewables will also provide capital investment for anaerobic digestion systems on DFA member farms that cannot make the financial commitment on their own.
Since 2011, brothers and DFA members Randy and Brian Jordan from Jordan Dairy Farm have been operating an anaerobic digester that combines manure and organic food waste and then puts electricity back into the utility grid.
“We are absolutely seeing the benefit of having an anaerobic digester from Vanguard Renewables on our farm,” said Randy Jordan. “Before the partnership, our monthly electric costs were more than $2,400. Now, we’re receiving low-cost energy, hot water and heat, replacing oil and propane, and natural fertilizer, which increases our hay yields. This is absolutely a partnership that will help sustain our farm for future generations.”